I have yet to miss the daily Wordle. I’ve added it to my OG games Boggle and Wordbubbles (WB recently released its own version of Wordle, aka my Wordle practice). The time spent on these games I justify as useful and educational in adding new vocabulary and recognizing word patterns and spellings, all great things. These skills enhance my love of reading and wordsmithing, right? What’s alarming to me is the time-wastiest of all time wasters: Toon Blast. I’m finding that I’m powerless to stop playing.
The game premise is simple: Eliminate all the targets before you run out of chances, and you keep playing; run out of chances and you lose a life. After five lives you wait until they refill to play again, self-stopping per se. Perhaps it builds spatial relationship and strategy competence. Maybe it’s just stupid good use of five minutes before reading the paper, writing, work, or Pilates. Hmmm. I have developed a pointed, exasperated look that says “give me a minute I’m trying to die” during play. I even say the words out loud just to prove I’m not hiding anything. Powerless is a big concept: I think about it as I reach for my phone and open the app.
I hesitate to use the word addiction, based on my history of ranting at the Kids about Media usage and Video Games specifically. Here is a repeated conversation with my Son:
“What did you do this weekend?”
“Played C.O.D with Anthony and Jordan”
“Yeah, lost track of time”
“Dude, I think you have a problem. You MUST stop playing THAT game”. And all the other games. I went on and on. Incessantly.
My trouble started with Toon Blasts’ predecessor, Candy Crush. I noticed that both my playing time and frustration at not winning was increasing. I meekly asked one of my Daughters to watch me play and provide hints for winning (god forbid I ask my Son after all that lecturing). She almost imperceptibly rolled her eyes and told me to use my power-ups, duh. Then archly commented that Candy Crush was likely a tracking bot for some Foreign Nation, hence my move to Toon Blast. And yes, did I ever feel crappy after that special family interaction. In any case I’ve selected one of those games where you move colored bubbles into test tubes as the successor to Toon Blast: See? I’m not addicted.
I tell myself that I’m sitting down to read the paper. Automatically my hand reaches for my phone, opening the Toon Blast app. I knock out five games.
I breathe deeply and absorb the Pandemic, Ukraine, Politics, and the homeless crises.
Another quick round before sitting down to write.
Now my mind is clear and I’m ready to work.
A work Zoom drones on. I smile and listen and sneak in a game or two.
No one on Zoom the wiser.
I need something that I can put down quickly waiting for Pilates to start.
Could it be that a game I think I am powerless to stop is just what I need to focus and power me through a crazy world? Then get things done? Whoa.
Okay, let’s be real, self-stopping is sort of a delusion. I admit that I play Toon Blast before, around, and occasionally during my other games. The game is on to me, occasionally I win a fifteen-minute round of stupid fun, which I indulge. There would be a problem if I calculated my total time of game play, so I don’t. I always end with my once-a-day-only “treat game”: Wordle. I’m getting obsessed. Route, atone, beaut as starting words anyone?